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How I started my own movement

career option fitness career group exercise group fitness group fitness instructor Feb 28, 2022

My group fitness teaching career (back then was just a hobby and it was called “aerobics”) started at my sister’s gym in 1996. For 7 years I taught there until I moved to London to learn english and travel. I thought I would not teach group fitness classes because my certifications were from the USA and Mexico, and not from the UK, and my English was not great! Deep inside was my lack of confidence. 


I however enrolled in a gym called “Soho gym” and started going because I missed group fitness and to help me stay fit. Shortly after that an instructor tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I was an instructor, and I said yes, BUT in Mexico, not in London. He was eager to help me find classes, and so he asked me for my CV, and recommended me around. 


I started to get calls to cover classes, I was terrified but I said YES. I knew I had to! I could not waste the opportunity. I went from covering classes, to taking on permanent classes, to becoming a group fitness manager for David Lloyd Kengsinton. 


I must confess none of the above was my plan, but deep inside it was like a dream coming true teaching classes overseas. So incredibly grateful for that instructor that believed in me, and barely knew me. 


Fast forward to moving to New Zealand in 2008, I did not know anyone but my husband. So I had to start somewhere…. Again. I decided to join group fitness classes at Pro-Fitness, and the Christchurch City Council as well as Les Mills to get an idea for the market here. I went where I could! It was the best decision as I happened to attend the classes of group fitness managers Lianne from Pro-Fitness Moorhouse and Erin from QEII. 


They both offered me an interview and landed classes with them. I wanted to teach ZUMBA but the program was not known in New Zealand then, so with the encouragement of my husband I started looking for places where I could teach ZUMBA on my own. My first time ever going solo, outside the 4 walls of a gym! It was daunting but it was exciting. 


I hired a dance studio, then a ballet studio, then a church hall. I had group fitness classes in 4 different locations at one point, all while still working for gyms teaching different group fitness class formats. 


Off we went to Sydney, my husband and I moved there in 2010. Start again! This time I was so busy teaching instructor trainings that I had no time to run my own business teaching classes, so thanks to having connections in the fitness industry I got offered a job teaching classes at Crunch Fitness (previously called “V” club) and Fitness First Chatswood. Later I joined my local aquatic centre in Hornsby and Virgin Active Norwest.


After 9 years in Sydney, we decided to move back to New Zealand in 2019, yes another move! But this time I think it is for good, but never say never! With my previous relationships with the Christchurch City Council I managed to get an interview to work there again, which was great. I also started going to my local aquatic centre in Rolleston, I met the manager and got offered one aqua fitness class, now I am teaching 4 classes there!


Something inside of me said, “you are not travelling much since the pandemic started, you should open your own ZUMBA class again, like I did 10 years ago” but left it there. It was not until people that knew me from teaching group fitness classes at the council, started asking me for a ZUMBA class. That's when I went ahead and did it. The demand was there, and that was the kick in the butt that I needed!


What is my thought process when starting “my own movement”


I always have a to-do list, not so much a business plan. So if you are like me and you want a to-do list this is what you will need:


  • A place that can fit at least 20 people comfortably, anything smaller would limit the potential of having more people. Think dance studios, school halls, church halls, pilates/yoga studios, martial arts studios, community halls. 
  • Check if the facility has a car park? If not, are there plenty of street spaces?
  • Does the facility have a sound system you can use or do you need to invest in your own?
  • Does it have a stage (that's a plus!) If not, would people still be able to see you?
  • Is the flooring appropriate for the group fitness class you are planning to teach?
  • Do you like the feel of the place? Is there enough light and ventilation?
  • Super important, what are the time slots they have available. Evenings always work best for most, but morning classes do well too, like 9am, 9:30am, even 10am. If you are in the city centre then lunch time classes will do well too but shortened in length. 
  • What are their requirements of hire? fees? Read the contract really well and ask questions.
  • Do you need to have public liability insurance? How about a music license?


Now, let's say you get the place, wooohooo! Exciting. Now time to market your class!


This is what I did when I started “my own movement” in New Zealand back in 2008:


  • Word of mouth, I talked to everyone I knew about it (you cannot be shy!). 
  • My husband and I would walk on the weekends doing flyer drop in mail boxes (not so much of a thing anymore but worth the try). 
  • I did a lot of demonstrations where I could, at latin nights and any event where I could showcase my classes (again you cannot be shy!). 
  • This second time around I have not done flyer drop, but I did talk to people about it in my local community. I am part of the local community groups on Facebook , definitely join your local FB community groups, and use those to connect with locals and to promote.


The take away from my experience is:


  • Feel the fear and do it anyway, do not leave things “I should have done this”
  • Give it a go attitude, no what if’s! Just do it. 
  • Work always on building relationships, it pays off, plus it's lots of fun meeting people.
  • Listen to people's wants and needs, be attentive.

Maria Teresa Stone

My Group Move co-founder

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